If we could be so lucky

2011-01-15 00:00

WITH yet more rain dampening the considerable spirits of India and South Africa’s final preparations for next month’s World Cup, focus shifted to matters off the field ahead of today’s scheduled second one-day international between the two countries.

If there is play today — and they may need wetsuits and flippers for that — expect the conditions to be anything but sub-continentish.

Graeme Smith is supposed to pass a significant milestone today, but it may just be passed on to his home ground, Newlands.

The Proteas captain is set to lead his side out for the 139th time today.

That will see him pass the late Hansie Cronje, and set a new record for the most matches as captain of the national side.

As ever, high on his priority list will be the push for consistency. The Proteas, since reaching the heights of number one side in the world two years ago, have found a rather worrying habit of blowing hot and cold.

The first Test demolition job of India was followed by a slice of humble pie in Durban.

It must be baffling “Biff” to the extreme, and with the World Cup around the corner, it is time for the Proteas to settle into some sort of rhythm.

And the biggest area of concern when it comes to consistency is in the batting.

The win at Kingsmead in the first ODI was largely glossed over by the fact that India were so spectacularly poor, but it won’t have escaped Smith’s attention that the Proteas keep losing wickets in batches.

As well as Hashim Amla, JP Duminy and AB de Villiers all played, the manner of Colin Ingram, David Miller and even Smith’s demise would have served as a warning shot.

Batting consultant Duncan Fletcher was offered to the press yesterday, and he unveiled a few pearls of wisdom.

Fletcher also warned of the dangers of becoming complacent, especially against the notoriously dangerous Indians.

“They have got to be very wary of what happened in the Test series,” Fletcher told repor­ters.

“I don’t think that will happen again. There seems to be a very professional attitude among this one-day squad and hopefully that lesson has been learned and they will hit India hard from ball one and make sure they don’t get complacent at any stage of the game.”

South Africa will know well enough that India’s coach Gary Kirsten will demand a reaction the Durban drubbing.

“India is quite an experienced side, although they have got young players. They know how to play out of those situations if they get into trouble. South Africa has to be very careful of that,” Fletcher continued.

His very presence around the squad of late has raised eyebrows, especially as the Proteas are in the market for an international standard coach when the World Cup ends.

Intriguingly, when Fletcher was asked if he had applied for the Proteas hot-seat, he declined to answer.

The very fact that he adopted this stance suggests that the Cricket South Africa (CSA) offices have been furnished with an envelope with the former England coach’s signature.

He admitted that the challenge of leading a side on the world circuit held appeal.

“I am enjoying my role [as consultant] at the moment, and I feel I can add value to the side. But if the chance to take over came up, I would seriously consider it as I am not tied to anyone,” he admitted.

It is an open secret that the powers that be would love to see Kirsten take the side forward, and the extension of the application deadline suggests that maybe the former Proteas opener had been too busy to forward his own, humble request for an audience.

It is the most intriguing of times in world cricket, with England, South Africa and India all vying for the top spot — and also playing merry-go-round with their coaches.

Kirsten may yet end up as Proteas coach, while former England man Fletcher may fancy having a dabble in Delhi once the World Cup dust settles.

Of course, there is still a series on the go here, despite the various distractions off the field.

The Proteas stated after the win in Durban that they would be almost certainly sticking to the same eleven, but new cap Faf du Plessis must surely be on the minds of the selectors.

He is in red-hot form and he also has an advantage over fellow young guns Miller and Ingram, as he also brings handy leg-spin to the table.

The rain in Johannesburg this week would suggest that the Dolphins’ Imran Tahir will most likely have to wait until Tuesday’s game in Cape Town to make a much-anticipated international bow.

Whatever the selectors decide, it needs to be, well, decisive.

The next two games are the last two auditions for World Cup hopefuls before the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) deadline for World Cup squads.

There is plenty at stake for a host of young talents, and both South Africa and India will be looking to build momentum as they head towards the ICC showpiece.

Of course, the weather gods may subject both sides to a weekend of nothing but twiddling thumbs or fiddling with Blackberries.

TEAMS

South Africa (possible): Graeme Smith (capt), Hashim Amla, Colin Ingram, AB de Villiers (wk), JP Duminy, David Miller, Johan Botha, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

India (possible): Sachin Tendulkar, M Vijay, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Harbhajan Singh, Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra.

 

TV times: Supersport 2 and SABC 3 from 2pm.

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